Study Guide

Clarissa

Clarissa Summary

Haters to the left could be Clarissa Harlowe's motto. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, obedient, and her rich grandpa's favorite, she's virtuous to boot. When the book opens, Clarissa's processing some major drama via letters back and forth with her BFF, Anna Howe. It turns out that Clarissa caught the eye of this totally cute dude named Richard Lovelace. Awesome, right?

Er, except Lovelace was supposed to be cozying up to Clarissa's sister, Arabella, and Arabella's not happy. Even worse, Clarissa's brother is holding onto a major grudge on Lovelace from his college days. If that's not juicy enough, James challenges Lovelace to a duel—because that's a totally normal response. Not. Lovelace easily wins, but is all "Cool it, dude. I like your sister so I'll spare your life."

Like we said, major drama. The cherry on top is that Clarissa's family is convinced that she's secretly passing notes with Lovelace because she's into him. And actually, she is. But not because she has a crush on him! She just wants to set him straight and get him to mend fences with her family, and…whatever, Clarissa. It doesn't help that Clarissa's dad wants to marry her off to Roger Solmes, this guy who's about as old, rich, and odious as they come.

Things get real when Clarissa's family decides to keep her locked in her room 24/7 until she caves and marries Solmes. When Clarissa spills the plan to Lovelace, he convinces Clarissa to bolt. Okay, he technically says his girl cousin will escort Clarissa away from her family's house, then tricks her into running away with him at the last second.

It's out of the frying pan and into the fire for Clarissa: remember, Lovelace is the kind of guy your mom warned you about. Obvi, Clarissa's family thinks she's a ruined woman. And it's not like Lovelace isn't trying his hardest to seduce Clarissa, but she's just too darn virtuous and Lovelace is just not the marrying type.

Unfortunately, Lovelace is one determined guy. He whisks Clarissa off to London, where one Mrs. Sinclair plans to help him orchestrate her ruin. Yeah, it's a little weird. Lovelace gets Clarissa a room at Mrs. Sinclair's place, which (spoiler alert!) is a brothel. Just to make it even more awkward, lots of the ladies living there are—ahem—Lovelace's ex-girlfriends. All of Lovelace's bros come to the whorehouse for a party, but they end up telling Lovelace to back off from his dastardly plan. One dude named Belford is particularly insistent that Lovelace stop being such a jerk.

Meanwhile, it's BFF Anna to the rescue. Anna and Clarissa have been writing to each other the whole time, much to Lovelace's irritation, and Anna is planning a jailbreak for Clarissa. Lovelace finds out about the plan and is super mad, but Clarissa still manages to escape a little later. Lovelace's servant, Will, is on it. He finds her and takes her right back to the whorehouse before she can bolt again. Nice try, Clarissa!

At this point, the book starts to get a little Prison Break. Clarissa keeps trying to escape, Lovelace keeps promising to marry her, and nothing really gets accomplished. Just when we think the dude might have reformed for good, it all goes sour. Mrs. Sinclair drugs Clarissa and Lovelace rapes her, cuing basically the most chilling line in all of eighteenth-century literature: "And now, Belford, I can go no farther. The affair is over. Clarissa lives."

When Clarissa wakes up, she goes temporarily mad. Lovelace sort of regrets what he did, but he still has some pretty cringeworthy lines about keeping her in his power—by marrying her for real. Clarissa isn't too keen on marrying her rapist, and she does manage to get away for good. But she's not doing too hot. Like, not eating and pretty much incapacitated in every way. Although Anna tries to convince Clarissa to A) take Lovelace to court or B) marry him, she doesn't want to do either. Actually, she's on death's doorstep. Around this time, the prostitutes have Clarissa falsely arrested and thrown in jail because they're jealous of her. What can we say—when it rains, it pours.

Belford (remember Lovelace's buddy who's really not that bad?) gains Clarissa's trust and gets her out of jail, but she's majorly wasting away. Since Clarissa's still at odds with her family, she puts Belford in charge of all of her affairs before she dies. She even buys herself a coffin, because why not? And sure enough, she dies after forgiving everyone who wronged her.

If this is when you're thinking The Bride will wreak her vengeance on everyone, that's not happening. But life's not all roses and lemon-drops for the rest of the Clarissa cast. Clarissa's cousin, Colonel Morden, challenges Lovelace to a duel and ends that dude. Clarissa's siblings end up with rotten spouses, and her parents kick the bucket soon after.

Only Anna and Belford escape: Anna, married, names her kiddo Clarissa—and Belford promises to put together all of Clarissa's letter as a cautionary tale to other unlucky ladies. Consider us warned. 

  • Letters 1-30

    • Anna Howe kicks off the action of the book with a juicy letter to her BFF, Clarissa. Turns out that there was aduel (!!!) between Clarissa's bro, James Harlowe, and a saucy fellow named Richard Lovelace.
    • Even though Lovelace crushed it, he let James live. What's the deal, Anna wants to know?
    • Clarissa lets Anna know that James is recovering from his wounds, but he is mad as what. Obviously, there's a story to tell. Clarissa gets Anna up to speed.
    • All this nonsense started when Lovelace came a-courtin' for Clarissa's sister, Arabella. Uh-oh: Lovelace quickly got the hots for the cuter Clarissa. Arabella is toast.
    • The plot thickens when James gets home from Scotland. Turns out that Lovelace is an old college rival.
    • From that time on, Lovelace's name is mud in the Harlowe household. In other words, there is no way he is getting Clarissa. Around this time is when James goes all Aaron Burr on Lovelace and challenges him to a duel.
    • Now that we've got the history, Clarissa admits that she's been trading letters with Lovelace. Nope, not a good idea.
    • Clarissa's maid, Hannah, gets caught passing the notes between the would-be lovahs. Obvi, she gets fired.
    • This is when Roger Solmes enters the picture. He's ugly, old, filthy rich, and he wants to marry Clarissa.
    • Great idea, says Clarissa's family. That way, they can get rid of her and make Lovelace mad to boot.
    • One problem: Clarissa doesn't want old Solmes as a hubby. Who can blame her?
    • It's all good, because Lovelace wants to marry her. Did we mention how rare that is? Lovelace is practically allergic to the altar.
    • He wants to meet Clarissa alone in the garden to—ahem—convince her of his good intentions. Smooth one, buddy.
    • Clarissa is no fool. But she keeps writing to Lovelace, despite being watched like a hawk by her new maid, Betty Barnes.
    • The only thing keeping Clarissa sane is Anna. But Anna has her own problems. Her mom wants to marry off to this nice guy named Mr. Hickman, who Anna actually thinks would be a good match for Clarissa.
    • But really, Anna is rooting for the Clarissa-Lovelace romance. She's sitting back to watch the drama with some popcorn.
  • Letters 31-50

    • Remix time! Instead of the old Clarissa-writes-to-Anna routine, we get a letter from Lovelace to his pal John Belford.
    • Lovelace lets Belford into a little secret: he really, really likes Clarissa. Too bad he also really hates the Harlowe family.
    • It's not totally his fault. When Lovelace was younger, he got punked by another man—and not in the Ashton Kutcher kind of way. After he got dumped for a high-class dude, he swore his vengeance on all of ladykind.
    • In the meantime, Clarissa tells it like it is to Solmes. Ain't gonna happen, no way, no how.
    • Surprise, surprise. Solmes doesn't care. He's happy to have Clarissa even if she doesn't love him
    • So Lovelace isn't a total creep, it turns out. When he has the opportunity to seduce a pretty young innkeeper's daughter named Rosebud (for real?) he declines. Actually, he even gives the girl some money for her future hubby.
    • If it wasn't Big Brother enough in Clarissa's house already, Lovelace has a guy on the inside. That would be Joseph Leman, a money-hungry doofus servant.
    • Lovelace isn't just content to sit around and let Joe bring him tidbits. Nope, he waits outside for Clarissa behind a woodpile. That's not creepy at all.
    • Clarissa takes it all in stride. Somehow, she's not totally turned off by Lovelace's weird hiding scheme. Her nurse, Mrs. Norton, sees through Lovelace's tricks and tries to get her to check out Solmes.
    • The Harlowes are basically desperate to make Clarissa like Solmes. Mrs. Harlowe tries bribing her daughter with clothes and jewels, but Clarissa is no gold-digger. Sing it, Kanye!
    • Whenever Clarissa and Arabella meet up, it's a recipe for a catfight. The two throw down in Clarissa's room when she refuses to cooperate with the family's wishes.
    • Meanwhile, Anna's got her own problems. Her mom wants her to marry this dude named Hickman, so she makes a pros and cons list.
    • There aren't really any cons. Hickman is such a nice guy, blah blah blah. Way to rub it in, Anna!
    • But Anna really wants to help her BFF. When Lovelace visits Anna to see if she'll be an ally, she agrees to try to bring the lovebirds together.
  • Letters 51-80

    • The World's Most Annoying Brother, a.k.a. James Harlowe, writes to Clarissa to pressure her into meeting up with Solmes. Way to butt into your sister's love life, bro.
    • Clarissa writes back a snippy reply to her parents. Nope, she's not going to see Solmes, and big bro needs to shove it.
    • Remember, the whole Harlowe fam lives in the same house. Since the Harlowes are giving Clarissa the silent treatment, the only way they communicate is via letter. Family dysfunction at its best!
    • The Harlowes let Clarissa know (via letter, of course) that they intend to ship her off to her Uncle Antony's house. Good ol' Uncle Antony apparently plans to force Clarissa to see Solmes.
    • Because Clarissa's a good girl, she tries to get rid of her "angry passions" by playing the harpsichord. How's that working out for you, Clarissa?
    • Clarissa also composes an "Ode to Wisdom," apparently in a passive-aggressive attempt to make fun of her stupid family.
    • Even though Anna is still Team Lovelace, her mom tries to give Clarissa some advice about marrying Solmes. It's not so bad to marry someone you don't like, she says.
    • Yeah, Clarissa's not buying it. Especially after Solmes sends her a cringeworthy letter in which he misspells ready as "readie" and value as "valew." He basically wants Clarissa to cave and marry him. Oh yeah, and he wants the opportunity to throw Lovelace under the bus.
    • Clarissa writes back and is all, "Nope."
    • The trip to Uncle Antony's is going to be delayed, on one condition. Clarissa has to allow Solmes to visit her, no ifs, ands, or buts.
    • Clarissa secretly writes to Lovelace to let him know what's up.
    • Lovelace writes a scandalizing letter back, calling Clarissa his "dearest creature" and some other PG-13 things.
    • Clarissa is, pretty predictably, scandalized. No more letters for you, Lovelace!
    • Not to worry, because Anna's on the case. She does some detective work into Lovelace and finds that there's a pretty young thing named Rosebud at the inn where he's staying.
    • Clarissa is practically green with jealousy, but she survives.
    • It's all good, because Lovelace isn't messing around with Rosebud. Apparently, he's giving her money in order to make up for his past wrongdoings. Are we the only ones who are skeptical?
    • Since the Rosebud thing isn't a big deal, Clarissa starts writing back to Lovelace.
    • Ever the crafty one, Lovelace proposes that Clarissa escape from the Harlowe household. He tells her she needs to split before the Harlowes marry her off to Solmes.
    • Clarissa says no, but she's getting kind off suspicious of how nice everyone is acting towards her. Like, really? After all this time?
    • Yep, she's right. Clarissa's Aunt Hervey clues her in to the fact that she's basically accepting Solmes if she meets with him. Can't anyone be straightforward around here?
    • The Harlowe family even encourages Solmes to keep him from losing hope. They tell him Clarissa's a done deal.
    • Finally, the Solmes visit arrives. It goes about as well as could be expected: he's awkward and creepy, and Clarissa's fed up with the whole situation.
    • While Clarissa's out of her room, the whole family conducts a CIA-style raid to find her letters to Anna and Lovelace. Remember, this is where all the secrets are hidden!
    • After Solmes leaves, Betty comes up to Clarissa's room to confiscate her paper and pens. Except Clarissa's already hidden them. Oh, snap!
    • Lovelace is still pushing his whole escape plan. See, he's trying to do it all respectable-like: Clarissa can stay at his family's house while they're figuring everything out. No funny stuff.
    • On the other hand, he plans to abduct her if she goes to her Uncle Antony's. So there's that.
  • Letters 81-110

    • According to Anna, London is the best place to hide in the world. In her opinion, Clarissa should get herself to London lickety-split to prevent the whole Solmes marriage thing from going down.
    • Anna would take in Clarissa herself, but you know, her mom's not on board with that plan. Sorry!
    • Clarissa's totally on board with the London plan, but she's not really sure how she's going to get there.
    • Yippee! Aunt Hervey tells Clarissa that she doesn't have to go to her Uncle Antony's.
    • …and the reason she doesn't have to go is because she's going to marry Solmes. In her room, like ASAP. Boo.
    • Aunt Hervey fills Clarissa in on Lovelace's dastardly plan to carry Clarissa off on her way to her Uncle Antony's. That's the whole reason for the speedy marriage.
    • Clarissa is one desperate gal. She writes to Lovelace that she'll run away with him, but only if he brings his lady-cousins to supervise.
    • Of course, our girl Clarissa is having second thoughts. She has a particularly nasty nightmare in which Lovelace kidnaps her, stabs her, and throws her into a grave. Uh, no thanks.
    • And in the meantime, snoopy maid Betty Barnes is being snoopy. She keeps poking around in Clarissa's clothes like she thinks something is up.
    • Clarissa changes her mind on D-Day and decides to ride out the Solmes thing without running away.
    • But she has to let Lovelace know what's up so he doesn't wait for her, right? Right? Bueller?
    • This next part gets related in a letter Clarissa writes to Anna from St. Albans. To everyone's great shock and surprise, Lovelace got his way.
    • Clarissa explains that when she went to let Lovelace know it's a no go, he got all panicky and strange.
    • And then there were gunshots and chaos in the background.
    • Lovelace whisked Clarissa out of there just like that. He's got to protect her, right?
    • Little does Clarissa know that dastardly servant Joseph Lemans is causing a ruckus to distract the family. It's a trap!
    • By the time Clarissa can catch her breath, she's at Lovelace's lodgings in St Albans. Surprise, surprise—there are no female cousins and no separate lodgings for Clarissa.
    • Anna writes back and is all "It's cool…but you better marry that guy or get out, like, yesterday."
    • Oh yeah, and she tells Clarissa that the Harlowes wouldn't have made her marry Solmes if she really hadn't wanted to. Excuse us if we're a little skeptical.
    • (Brain Snack: actually, maybe we shouldn't be so skeptical. England in the eighteenth century spent a lot of time patting itself on the back for not tyrannizing over its women in comparison to other countries. (Go ahead and roll your eyes.) One of the examples writers would bring up is that English girls always had the power to say "no"—that no one could force a girl into a marriage. So, Anna is not entirely off-base here, even though having your whole family pressuring you might feel a lot like force.)
    • Lovelace writes to his pal, John Belford, to gloat over tricking the pure Clarissa. He hasn't totally reformed, he says.
    • Basically, Clarissa and Lovelace have been playing cat and mouse at St. Albans.
    • Clarissa tries to get away from Lovelace, and Lovelace keeps chasing after Clarissa. This is getting a little old.
    • He confides in Belford that he's cool with marrying Clarissa. But he's going to try to seduce her and not marry her, just to give it the old college try.
  • Letters 111-150

    • Even though Anna's mom banned her from corresponding with Clarissa, Anna doesn't care. She tells Clarissa to drop it. It's totally cool!
    • Clarissa's family is refusing to send her money or clothes, since she's supposedly "ruined" and all.
    • Oh yeah, and remember Joseph Leman? That dastardly servant guy who helped Lovelace get away with Clarissa? Lovelace finally confesses to Clarissa that he was a spy in the Harlowe home.
    • Although Clarissa's no fool, she's trying to figure out how to work the situation out. Is she in love with Lovelace, or isn't she?
    • It doesn't help that Lovelace is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of lovers.
    • First, he makes fun of Clarissa's family. Then, he shows his soft underbelly by giving Clarissa letters from his aunt and cousin. Turns out, they do exist! And they want to meet Clarissa.
    • Clarissa's onto Lovelace's game, though, and insists on going to London.
    • That's cool, Lovelace says. He'll just write to his totally unbiased friend, Tom Doleman, to ask about separate lodgings.
    • Maybe Clarissa's put on her rose-colored glasses again, because she happily agrees to go to a nice little house on Dover Street in London. Everything will be hunky-dory!
    • Not a moment too soon, either, because Clarissa's brother plans to kidnap her back and marry her off to Solmes. His buddy, a guy named Captain Singleton, is going to help him do it.
    • Lovelace is secretly worried about it, even though he makes fun of James to Clarissa.
    • The dastardly servant, Leman, pops up again. This time, he writes a letter to Lovelace letting him know he's in major trouble.
    • Turns out, Lovelace got a lady named Miss Betterton pregnant a long time ago. She died in childbirth, but Lovelace may still be on the hook for her ruin.
    • It's getting a little spooky around here. Arabella (remember that delightful sister of Clarissa's?) writes to tell Clarissa that her dad has put a curse on her.
    • That's right. He's so hopping mad that he's not only cursed her in this lifetime, but in the next one, too.
    • Clarissa's sick with worry (because curses are legit, we guess?), but she's determined to go through with the London plan.
    • She's so upset that she almost makes an honest man out of Lovelace. Not quite, though.
    • Belford writes back to Lovelace and tells him it's time to back off from the Clarissa scheme. If he doesn't care that much about Clarissa's rep, think of his own.
    • Aunt Hervey writes to Clarissa, even though it's a major non-no. She's pretty much all "Yep, you're screwed."
    • Anna, always the BFF, tries to give Clarissa some cold, hard cash. Clarissa turns it down before she heads out the door for London, because she's an independent woman. Kind of.
  • Letters 151-180

    • Clarissa writes to Anna from her new lodgings in London.
    • Everything's cool, but old widow who's renting the place out has an "odd winking eye." BAD SIGN.
    • The widow Sinclair has a relative who will be filling in as a servant until Clarissa can get her old servant Hannah back. This servant has the best name ever: Dorcas.
    • Okay, so Mrs. Sinclair's place is actually a whorehouse. Whoopsies!
    • Besides Dorcas, the prostitutes who live there are named Polly Horton and Sally Morton. It's like they're straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.
    • Polly, Sally, and Dorcas are nice enough, but they're definitely giving Lovelace some funny looks.
    • At least they seem to be readers of moral literature. Oh, wait, Lovelace planted some second-hand books around to make them look like they read moral books. That's not sketchy at all.
    • Y'know those funny looks the girls seem to be giving Lovelace? Well, they've all slept with him.
    • Actually, they used to be fine upstanding citizens before Lovelace came along.
    • All of this makes Clarissa pretty uneasy, but it's even worse that Lovelace is insisting that they're "married." No separate room for you, Clarissa!
    • Lovelace invites all his bros over for some fun times at the brothel. No, not like that. It's about as innocent of a brothel party as possible.
    • Clarissa still leaves the group, disgusted, but she manages to check out all of Lovelace's buddies.
    • The guys are Mowbray, Belton, Tourville, and a classy heiress named Miss Partington. Don't even ask what she's doing with this band of misfits.
    • Oh, and there's Belford, who's been corresponding with Lovelace. Clarissa notices that he seems like the most decent dude.
    • Lovelace is up to his tricks again. He gets a buddy of his to pretend he's a house broker named Captain Mennell.
    • It's extra sketchy because Lovelace has no intentions of finding Clarissa a decent place outside of the brothel.
    • In the meantime, Clarissa's cousin writes her a letter. That would be Colonel Morden, who is pretty much one of the only trustworthy men in Clarissa's life at this point.
    • Groan. Looks like Morden thinks Clarissa's option is to—say it with us now—marry Solmes. So he's not much help.
    • Looks like Mommy's mad. That would be Anna's mom, who forbids Clarissa from writing to Anna.
    • Ever the good girl, Clarissa agrees. But Anna doesn't plan to lie down.
    • Using her beau, Mr. Hickman, as a front, Anna continues writing to Clarissa. She also calls Lovelace Beelzebub. Guess the bloom is off the rose?
    • Even though most of Lovelace's friends are jerks, they still think Clarissa is getting a raw deal.
    • They write Lovelace to tell him to cut it out, but he's not really paying attention.
    • Anna to the rescue, once again. She writes to Clarissa's old nurse, Mrs. Norton, to beg her to reconcile Clarissa and her family.
    • Mrs. Norton is like, "Nope." But she also writes back to Anna to say that she hopes Clarissa is still a virgin.
  • Letters 181-210

    • Anna writes back to Mrs. Norton to let her know that Clarissa is most def still a virgin. But Anna also has some words for Clarissa. We've heard it before, but it's getting more urgent: she tells Clarissa to marry that dude, like, yesterday.
    • It's the return of Jekyll and Hyde Lovelace. At first, he seems 100% on board with marriage.
    • The dude even draws up a marriage settlement.
    • But back away from Pinterest, Clarissa: he doesn't actually ever name a wedding day. Foiled again!
    • Lord M., Lovelace's uncle, writes to Belford to ask him to get his nephew in check. Seriously, he says, Lovelace needs your help. Or Jiminy Cricket. Does Lovelace even have a conscience?
    • Lovelace catches word of his uncle's warning, and has a fairly predictable response: LOL.
    • Since Clarissa has pretty much been the sole topic of conversation for the entire book, Belford decides to switch it up. He writes to Lovelace about their good pal Belton, who is something of a cautionary tale.
    • Apparently, the dude is deathly ill. Also, his evil mistress has been stealing money from him.
    • Belford tells Lovelace that this guy really got what was coming to him. Hint. Hint.
    • Anna's got lots of plans up her sleeve, as we've already figured out. She tells Clarissa about her girl Mrs. Townsend, a seller of silk and lace.
    • Mrs. Townsend has the perfect spot for Clarissa to crash, if she can get away from Lovelace.
    • Anna plans to get her lovah-lovah, Mr. Hickman, to help Clarissa escape to Mrs. Townsend's.
    • And now for a random event that has little to do with the plot: Uncle Antony proposes marriage via letter to Anna's mom. Huzzah!
    • Mrs. Howe refuses him. Guess that didn't go so well.
    • Remember our pal Dorcas? Well, she's been busy spying for the enemy, a.k.a. Lovelace.
    • Girl took the time to copy a bunch of Anna's letters to Clarissa for Lovelace to read.
    • Lovelace is pretty mad, especially when he finds out about the Mrs. Townsend thing. He plans to make Clarissa pay.
    • Bad timing, as usual, Lovelace. Clarissa had been all set to accept Lovelace's marriage settlements, but she dramatically rips them up after Lovelace acts like a jerk.
    • Dorcas to the rescue! There should really be more superheroes named Dorcas. She figures out a way to copy the ripped-up letter and get it to Lovelace.
    • Aw, Lovelace is touched.
    • And then Lovelace does a not-so-cute thing. He pulls a Carrie with pig's blood and ipecacucanha and pretends to be violently ill.
    • Yes, you read that correctly. He fake-vomits pig blood to make Clarissa love him.
    • But it kind of works. Clarissa gets all lovey-dovey and tries to make him better.
  • Letters 211-241

    • Apparently, this random dude has been creeping around near Mrs. Sinclair's house slash brothel. Who is he?
    • Since we don't have enough spies yet, the dude is checking into Clarissa for her family.
    • His name is Captain Tomlinson, and he wants to know if Clarissa and Lovelace have tied the knot. If so, it's all good. If not, [insert the noise of menacing thunder].
    • Of course, Lovelace sees the opportunity for mischief. He wants Clarissa to lie to Captain Tomlinson.
    • But if we know our girl Clarissa, that's not gonna happen.
    • Even so, Captain Tomlinson tells Clarissa that he'll give a good report to her dad. That way, everyone will be buddies again.
    • Uh-oh. "Captain Tomlinson" is another one of Lovelace's tricks, designed to tempt Clarissa into wicked ways.
    • The guy's real name is Patrick McDonald, and he's friends with Lovelace. And that, ladies and gents, is why we don't trust guys who creep around in the bushes.
    • Lovelace is gearing up for some big-time revenge. He reads over the letters Dorcas copied for him in order to get amped up to be extra-mean to Clarissa.
    • Remember those marriage settlements? Turns out, they were sent off to a lawyer to approve and they're too legit to quit. But c'mon. This is Lovelace we're talking about. It's not going to be that easy.
    • Lovelace has a brilliant idea. He'll creep into Clarissa's bed and surprise her into sleeping with him. Sidenote, Shmoopers: this is one of Samuel Richardson's favorite plot devices. Check Pamela for a similar "trick" from the character Mr. B.
    • Unfortunately for Lovelace, there's a surprise fire that alarms the entire house.
    • Clarissa runs into her room half-naked and assumes that Lovelace is trying to trick her somehow. She catches on quickly, that one.
    • Even though the fire wasn't Lovelace's idea, Clarissa calls him a villain and banishes him from her sight. Atta girl.
    • Actually, she sticks to her guns for a pretty long time. For about a week, she refuses to see the guy.
    • But since this is Clarissa we're talking about, she's fine with writing him letters. (Richardson has a book to sell, after all.)
    • Finally, Clarissa pulls some tricks of her own. While Lovelace assumes she's locked in her room, she escapes.
    • Obviously, it's Dorcas's fault. Lovelace calls her a "sniveling toad," which is seams a little unfair.
    • Lovelace intercepts a letter from Anna telling Clarissa to get the heck out of Dodge. She's like, "You're staying in a brothel. Why aren't you halfway to the moon by now?"
    • Lovelace is madder than a hatter, but he puts his beloved servant Will on it.
    • Unfortunately, Clarissa didn't run fast enough. Will finds her at a woman named Mrs. Moore's lodgings, and lets Lovelace know what's up.
    • Lovelace pulls a Mrs. Doubtfire and dresses himself up like an old man to take lodgings at Mrs. Moore's.
    • Then, he dramatically throws off his disguise in front of a group of the boarders. Clarissa is understandably terrified.
    • He pretends she's his wife in order to get public opinion on his side. Unfortunately for Clarissa, it works.
    • All the ladies at Mrs. Moore's are practically batting their eyelashes at the handsome Lovelace.
    • Tricky Lovelace has rewritten Anna's last letter to Clarissa so it cleverly omits all of the brothel stuff.
    • He also finds a way to intercept all of the letters Clarissa and Anna send to each other. Apparently, the maid who helps out Clarissa is Will's sweetheart. Things aren't looking too great for poor Clarissa.
  • Letters 242-272

    • Lovelace is still trying to do his best to get Clarissa away from Mrs. Moore's.
    • He tries to calm her down with false promises that his female cousins will pay her a visit, but Clarissa sees right through that charade.
    • Lovelace calls in the big guns again. Since Clarissa never figured out that Captain Tomlinson was a false character, he gets his buddy to pay a visit to Mrs. Moore's.
    • Even Captain Tomlinson is pretty torn up about tricking Clarissa. The dude can't even play his part without crying.
    • While Clarissa is with Mrs. Moore at church, a letter from her beloved Anna comes in.
    • Uh-oh. Lovelace intercepts it by convincing one of his new lady friends at Mrs. Moore's to pretend she's Clarissa.
    • Mrs. Beavis gets the letter and passes it right onto Lovelace, as easy as pie.
    • The letter has some important info about the next steps in Clarissa's escape plan.
    • Anna fills in her BFF on the deets: Mrs. Townsend can receive her the following Wednesday or Thursday, but no sooner.
    • That should give Lovelace plenty of time to work his evil plans. Muahahaha.
    • On the plus side, Lovelace finally receives the marriage license. He pokes fun at all the legal language in a letter to Belford, because there isn't anything funnier than a good wedding.
    • Clarissa confides in Lovelace that she hopes to use her grandfather's inheritance to live on a secluded estate, with only Mrs. Norton as her companion. That is, if he ever lets her leave.
    • Well, at least Lovelace's cousins are coming to visit! Except that they're actually prostitutes dressed up as Lovelace's cousins. Sigh.
    • Clarissa figures out that they're impostors, but not before they trick her into going into town. Of course, they take her right to Mrs. Sinclair's place.
    • Lovelace writes a one-line letter to Belford, letting him know the affair is complete. Yeah, that's kind of abrupt.
    • We don't get any details, but it soon becomes clear that Lovelace raped Clarissa after Mrs. Sinclair drugged her asleep.
    • Belford is seriously hopping mad. He calls Lovelace a bunch of names and tells him to make it right ASAP.
    • Lovelace isn't totally repentant, though he does seem sad. He basically says that Clarissa paid the price for setting such a high price on her virginity. Not cool at all, Lovelace.
    • In the meantime, Clarissa is going crazy. Literally. She's writing up a storm, but none of it seems to make sense.
    • We get some examples of her mad ramblings, which go all over the page. There's some cool eighteenth-century typography if you're into that.
    • (Brain Snack: scholar-type folk call these the "Mad Papers.")
    • Clarissa asks Lovelace to take her to the madhouse, but he refuses.
    • Clarissa pulls it together enough to accuse Lovelace of her rape, and he seems totally repentant.
    • He says he'll marry her right away, but Clarissa's the one stalling now.
    • Lovelace gets the news from one of Lord M.'s stewards that his Lordship is really sick.
    • Lovelace hopes he'll at least get a good inheritance from Lord M. That might help him make some headway with Clarissa.
    • All the ladies of the night at the brothel are feeling sorry for Clarissa. That, or they're sick of hearing her complain.
    • Clarissa makes friends with Dorcas and promises her a big-time payoff if she'll help her escape.
    • Unfortunately, Dorcas has deep pockets and knows who pays her bills. She lets Lovelace in on the secret.
    • Before Clarissa can try to bolt, she comes down with a bad fever. She'll only let Dorcas in the door.
    • Lovelace gets his old buddy, "Captain Tomlinson," to write recommending that Lovelace and Clarissa get married the following week.
    • Even though she's super sick, Clarissa doesn't buy it. Also, she just doesn't want to marry that dude anymore.
  • Letters 273-303

    • Well, it couldn't be kept from Anna forever. Anna writes to Clarissa wanting to know the dealio with why she went back to Mrs. Sinclair's.
    • But it never gets to Clarissa. Lovelace intercepts the letter and doesn't let Clarissa read it.
    • Even though Clarissa doesn't give a rat's tail about whether "Captain Tomlinson" is for real, she agrees to hang at Mrs. Sinclair's until the following week. Lovelace needs to just keep the heck away from her.
    • Remember, that's when her uncle is supposed to see her tie the knot.
    • Clarissa's hoping to fly the coop once her uncle gets in. Too bad it's another scheme of Lovelace's.
    • Lovelace asks Clarissa if she still likes him better than Solmes. Clarissa is all, "Nope."
    • In this next episode of the Dorcas Files, Lovelace decides to scapegoat her in front of Clarissa.
    • He pretends to find the note that Dorcas secretly showed him and draws his sword on the poor kid.
    • Clarissa comes out of her room looking sterner than Sam the Eagle and tells him to leave her alone.
    • Lovelace tries to be all lovey-dovey and asks for Clarissa's forgiveness, but she's already terrified.
    • She threatens to kill herself with a penknife if Lovelace comes any closer. That shuts him down pretty quickly.
    • Once again, Clarissa has escaped. She took a page from Lovelace's book and disguised herself as the maid, Mabel. Way to pull the old switcheroo, Clarissa.
    • Supposedly, this is right before Lovelace is on the brink of marrying her. Sure.
    • Clarissa writes a pretty miserable letter to Anna detailing her emotional state, but she accidentally sends it straight to Mrs. Howe. This is not going to end well.
    • Mrs. Howe writes back and says "Sorry, but you're not writing to my daughter anymore." What, like Clarissa's a bad example or something? Gee whiz.
    • Clarissa tries to get her old servant Hannah to come to her aid, but Hannah says she can't do it. Come on, people!
    • As a last resort, Clarissa writes to Mrs. Norton and finds out more of Lovelace's tricky lies. Turns out her uncle was never planning on seeing her get married.
    • Ouch. Just to make sure, Clarissa writes to Lady Betty Lawrence (Lovelace's cousin) to find out if she was the one who met Clarissa in town.
    • Nope, says Betty. You got punk'd.
  • Letters 304-334

    • Now, Clarissa's covering her bases. She writes to Mrs. Hodges to find out if she knows a Captain Tomlinson.
    • Nope, says Mrs. Hodges. At this point Clarissa wants to scream at Lovelace: "You sit upon a throne of lies!"
    • Finally, Anna figures out that her letters have been intercepted. She's totally shocked at Clarissa's horrible fate and tells her to nail that sucker in court.
    • Uh-oh, Lovelace is in trouble. His aunt and cousin are not too pleased that they were impersonated by prostitutes, and the story is starting to get out.
    • Plus, the cousins pay him a visit to really bawl him out.
    • Still, he L-O-V-E-S Clarissa. Like, he really wants to marry her now.
    • Clarissa is trying to relate the whole gruesome story to Anna via letter, but she keeps getting sick. She can barely write at this point.
    • After reading the whole story, Anna writes back. But Clarissa's vanished again!
    • Unfortunately, Clarissa's prostitute companions from Mrs. Sinclair's place have come back to bug her.
    • They have her arrested as she walks out of church one morning.
    • Apparently, Clarissa owes them money. That's a big fat lie, but we'll bet Dorcas started getting a little greedy.
    • Belford to the rescue! After Lovelace finds out, he sends his buddy over to take care of the sitch.
  • Letters 334-384

    • Back at the prison, Clarissa's in a bit of a bind. Sally and Polly, the two lovely prostitutes, say they're happy to take her back to Mrs. Sinclair's.
    • Clarissa gets about as rude as Clarissa can get in turning them down. That is to say, she's not very rude.
    • When Belford appears on the scene, Clarissa's looking very pure in an all-white outfit. She thinks he's another one of Lovelace's pawns.
    • It takes some serious wheedling, but Belford finally convinces Clarissa to let him take her back to her lodgings. That is to say, not Lovelace's place.
    • Back at the ranch, Clarissa's not doing so hot. She's basically on death's door.
    • Belford hires a doctor dude named Mr. H. to come check Clarissa out, but she's a lost cause. Even though she's totally broke, Clarissa wants to pay everyone who has helped her.
    • She sells her diamond ring and some clothes to pay Mr. H., because she's just that conscientious.
    • In parallel story land, Belford visits his old friend Belton. Remember that guy? He's the one whose mistress hung him out to dry.
    • Turns out he's about to die, too. The guy can't catch a break.
    • Mr. Hickman, Anna's guy, pays a little visit to Lovelace. He somehow still thinks he can salvage this thing by making Lovelace marry Clarissa.
    • Lovelace gets all dramatic and says only Death can marry her now. Whatever you say, weirdo.
    • Belford gets Clarissa all set up in a slightly nicer lodging situation at Mrs. Smith's.
    • Clarissa's definitely preparing for death. Everyone who sees her can't help but think that she's got an angel kind of thing going on.
    • She even writes to Anna that she's ready to accept Death as her suitor.
    • Anna writes to Arabella to let her know the low-down, which is most definitely a mistake, since sis is not the warm and fuzzy type.
    • Arabella refuses to reconcile with Clarissa, even though she knows how bad things have gotten.
    • At least Clarissa is continuing to write a little bit. Belford sends Lovelace some lines she's written in order to show him that the girl's still got it.
    • In an epic showdown, Lovelace and Anna run into each other at a ball. Does Anna punch him? Does she go all samurai on his smug little face? Nope, she snaps her fan at him. You show him, girl!
    • Lovelace is still holding out hope that Clarissa might marry him. He even thinks for a second that Clarissa might be pregnant with a little Lovelace, because that would solve all of his problems.
    • Good news, everyone! Mr. Harlowe has removed his curse from Clarissa. WHEW.
    • Mrs. Norton tries to get Mrs. Harlowe to accept her daughter back, but the woman is cold-hearted.
    • Meanwhile, Clarissa is writing letters to try to gain the forgiveness of her family. It's a no-go.
    • Clarissa gets Belford to sign on as the executor of her will. She's dead serious about this dying thing. Lolllllllllll. 
  • Letters 385-415

    • Charlotte Montague, Lovelace's other cousin, writes Clarissa to say she plans to visit. Let's hope this is the real Charlotte and not another prostitute.
    • Clarissa writes to both her uncles to make her final apologies, but they answer rudely. Meh, we never liked them anyway.
    • In a last-ditch effort to save Clarissa, a clergyman by the name of Brand comes to check her out.
    • It doesn't help. Plus, he's kind of a jerk. Like Clarissa hasn't known enough jerks in her lifetime!
    • Finally, Colonel Morden arrives in England. He was supposed to be the white knight who swept through and saved Clarissa earlier, but he didn't really deliver. Because Lovelace can't go a day without playing a trick, he pretends to his family that he's reformed.
    • In order to demonstrate his new repentance, he reads over Clarissa's meditations. Might do him some good.
    • Belford may not be the sharpest tool in the shed. He writes to Lovelace telling him he has to go away to see to the dying Belton.
    • Lovelace should not, under any circumstances, visit Clarissa while he's gone.
  • Letters 416-457

    • Naturally, Lovelace sets out immediately to visit Clarissa.
    • Joke's on him, because Clarissa's not in her room.
    • Lovelace curses out everyone at Mrs. Smith's place and generally acts like a crazy person, just because he can.
    • It's crazy dream time for Lovelace. He dreams that Clarissa is an angel (no surprises there) who saves him from a duel with Colonel Morden.
    • Then, he falls into a bottomless pit. Fun dream!
    • Once Belton finally kicks the bucket, Belford comes back to check on Clarissa.
    • She's been doing everything possible to avoid Lovelace by hopping around to various public houses.
    • Oh, snap. Clarissa finds out that Morden plans to visit Lovelace. We can all guess where this is going.
    • Weirdly, the two guys get along. Morden writes to Clarissa telling her to marry the guy already.
    • Something tells us Morden doesn't know the whole story.
    • Clarissa is happy that Morden's trying to do the right thing, but she reminds him that she's got a date with Death.
    • Meanwhile, Lovelace thought he had Clarissa locked down. He's pretty mad that she still doesn't want to marry him.
    • Oh, Clarissa. She's such a thoughtful girl that she had a coffin ordered and delivered to her address at Mrs. Smith's.
    • She also takes some time to decorate the coffin, because that's not weird and creepy at all.
    • Clarissa's almost done with her will, and you know what that means.
    • This is Lovelace's last chance to make an impression on Clarissa, and you better believe the boy is trying.
    • The Harlowe family, on the other hand, doesn't seem to really get it. They refuse to forgive Clarissa even after Morden shows them proof that A) Lovelace will marry her and B) she's about to die.
    • Morden is still trying to work over the Harlowe family, so he writes to delay his arrival at Clarissa's place.
    • It might be too late, though. Clarissa is pretty close to end-times.
    • Belford wants her to talk Lovelace into reforming before she goes, but she's way too busy dying.
  • Letters 458-537

    • Clarissa writes one last letter to Anna, and this one is a tear-jerker.
    • Luckily, Morden makes it to Clarissa before it's too late.
    • Clarissa just wants one thing from her cousin: she has a miniature portrait of Anna that she wants sent to Mr. Hickman. All together now: Awww.
    • Lovelace is going nuts waiting for news of Clarissa.
    • When he finally gets it, it's not good. She's welcomed death with open arms.
    • And predictably, the Harlowes send over a letter that she's to be welcomed back in the family. The timing here is atrocious.
    • Belford makes funeral arrangements. Weirdly enough, Clarissa has asked to be buried at her grandfather's feet.
    • If we know Clarissa, she's got some letters saved up. Just like clockwork, Belford distributes eleven letters to the people in Clarissa's life.
    • One of the letters is to Lovelace. Belford pockets it, although he tells Lovelace that it exists.
    • Belford also lets Lovelace know that Mrs. Sinclair is not doing so hot. She's broken her leg and is dying of a resulting infection.
    • (Brain Snack: yes. People used to die all the time from infections in broken limbs. Aren't you happy we discovered antibiotics? Good. Now stop abusing them.)
    • The doc has to amputate the leg, and the scene is not so pretty.
    • Lovelace is totally out of it. He wants Clarissa to be embalmed and given over to him, to which Belford is like, "Definitely not."
    • The Harlowe family is totally devastated by Clarissa's death. They want to execute her will, but Belford stands his ground.
    • Here's a smart idea, says Belford: get Lovelace out of the country before all the Clarissa groupies kill him.
    • It's too late, though, because Morden has challenged him to a duel.
    • Meanwhile, Lovelace is finally reading Clarissa's letter.
    • It's about what you would expect: she tells him it's his fault, but ultimately forgives him,
    • Morden tracks Belford down at Trent and dominates him.
    • Lovelace dies dramatically, but not before speaking in French to Morden about his guilt.
  • Conclusion

    • Bye bye letters, hello postscript written by Belford.
    • Turns out that Mr. and Mr. Harlowe kick the bucket a few years after Clarissa's death.
    • James Harlowe marries a nasty woman. Since there was some question about whether her property was legally hers, he spent the rest of his life in and out of courts.
    • Arabella marries a nasty man who cheats on her.
    • Mowbray and Tourville, the remaining rakes of Lovelace's merry band, repent and go to live quietly in the countryside.
    • And Anna marries Hickman. Obviously, she names her kiddo Clarissa.
    • Finally, Belford gets Charlotte. Remember, that cousin of Lovelace's? Let's hope he got the real Charlotte and not the prostitute in disguise.